Thursday, April 28, 2011

Birtherism is the Streak in America's Underwear

Like many others, I like seeing Jim Fallows get righteously angry:

This alone disproves Donald Trump's crock-of-shit* insulting and preposterous assertions that Obama was an affirmative action or charity admittee to the Ivy Leagues who couldn't really cut it on his own IQ or test scores, as if there weren't already evidence enough: It is his use at time 0:50 of the word "bemusement" in its proper sense (puzzlement, confusion) rather than what most people think it means (mild amusement). I would like to have someone ask Trump what he thinks the word means. Maybe some variant on "easement"? [* Update: OK, it's a sign of defeat to resort to profanity. My exasperation is a sign of how I feel about this line of slurs. First, whatever is wrong with Obama, no sane person thinks he's stupid. Second, I wonder how many people think Donald Trump is in a position to judge Obama's smarts. Third, there is no avoiding the racist connotation of saying that a successful black person got there -- wink wink -- through special treatment. "Of course the black guy ended up as editor of the Law Review. What do you expect?" So I should just have said that rather than "crock of shit." On the other hand, a crock of shit is what this is.]

TNC thinks "the cursing was quite appropriate." I agree, and think it important to unpack why.

Let's examine the phrase, "crock of shit." A crock, according to the handy, is in its literal meaning an earthenware pot, a holding unit. Sometimes it is a broken earthenware pot. Its slang definition--as in, 'what a crock'--is 'nonsense.' Nonsense isn't necessarily good, but it isn't necessarily harmful either. It's just kind of there, like the tall tales young boys tell their smiling, incredulous mothers.

Then we have the qualifier, "of shit." Shit, and its descendant "bullshit," needs little explanation, but again, I think it important to look at the literal definition. Shit is crap is feces: the byproduct of a vital element of survival, food, from which anything healthy or useful* has been extracted.

In this case, a loyal opposition is necessary to a functioning polity; the Affirmative Action charge, Birtherism, and all of these absurd and frankly racist attacks on Obama's legitimacy, however, are not loyal in any sense. It's contrarianism conducted under bad faith, and asserting the other side's illegitimacy to boot, and on grounds so frail the slightest nudge of evidence explodes the argument like a breeze on a dandelion gone to seed. (And, also like a dandelion, Birtherism has continued to come back only to be refuted [refudiated?] again and again. But I'm mixing metaphors. To shit, then. Birtherism is the digested and defecated remains of the necessary good of the opposition party, made all the more rank and formless by the debased state of today's Republican party.)

So foul to the senses is shit that it is impossible to focus on anything else when it is around, as the Birther story has proven, as did "Death Panels" before it. Anything it comes in contact with carries thereafter the stain and the stench: Donald Trump, a fecal fetishist (a connoisseur of kink that even the famously open-minded Dan Savage just this week called "unfuckingreasonable") whose eagerness to dance in this shitstorm is hurting his Celebrity Apprentice ratings; the media, whose complicity in taking Trump's buffoonery seriously and keeping this story alive debases their profession; and Barack Obama, who degraded himself by caving and showing his birth certificate, and in doing so legitimized questions of his citizenship.

So a crock can be either a (broken) holding receptacle, or a source of nonsense, and shit is, well, shit. Trump's assertions about Obama's intelligence and citizenship are indeed a cracked and spewing source ideological refuse, and so Fallows was ever appropriate in calling this a crock of shit. His choice of words was apt, and will likely continue to be so. It's barely an exaggeration to imagine Obama will next be asked to provide his transcripts to prove he wasn't a lazy Affirmative Action admission, and when that isn't sufficient he'll have to produce his schoolwork. Obama wants to wash his hands of this whole sordid affair, but washing his clothes is another matter entirely.

1 comment:

  1. Way to unpack!
    Also: first time I've checked out Andrew since his move. It's just not the same :(.